Book Review: The Strange Maid

The Strange Maid (The United States of Asgard #2)
Published By: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Page Count: 400
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Fantasy, Norse Mythology

Tessa Gratton is one of my favorite YA writers and I have been craving this novel since I finished the first one. The combination of Norse mythology in an alternate contemporary society is highly addicting reading material. The amount of creativity that has gone into creating this universe awes me. 

The Strange Maid and its predecessor are reminiscent of the Greek epics. Each story focuses on the journey of a hero or heroine. The character faces numerous trials. I also like that Gratton does not sugar coat things. Characters die, hearts are broken, and tragedy occurs. Life isn't all about pleasantries and happy endings - neither is mythology. 

I enjoyed the Valkyrie lore in this one and Signy's journey to solve her riddle. Signy was an interesting character who I immediately liked. She is a girl who knows what she wants, honors tradition, and is fiercely loyal. I also liked that she isn't a perfect person. Signy has flaws and she makes mistakes. She allows her temper to guide her actions. It's nice to see someone more realistic from time to time instead of the polished perfection of some YA leading ladies. Signy is rough around the edges and certainly someone I would want on my side in a fight. 

In addition to Signy, it was nice to see Soren again. I loved him in The Lost Sun. He is still the same troubled guy, but he has matured a bit. The beginning of this novel happens during the same time that Soren is on his adventure, but about midway through his path intersects with Signy's. Watching these two hunt together is a thing of beauty.

The plot of this one was intriguing, but there were some moments that felt slower than others. The beginning of the novel had some slow patches, but things start to pick up around the 40% mark. I was interested to see how the riddle would work out.

One thing that makes this novel stand out is that it isn't written like other YA novels. Gratton does not sacrifice writing quality simply because her main characters are teens. I love when writers tell an amazing story with superb writing and don't restrict themselves to telling a story based on the age of the characters. Novels like this one stretch the imagination and provide more complex literary elements.

One Last Gripe: My biggest complaint was the slower patches.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: I love Gratton's take on Norse Mythology.

First Sentence: I was born under a frenzied star, so our poets would say.

Favorite Character: Soren

Least Favorite Character: The Troll Mother

Fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater will embrace the richly drawn, Norse-influenced alternate world of the United States of Asgard, where cell phones, rock bands, and evangelical preachers coexist with dragon slaying, rune casting, and sword training in schools. Where the president runs the country alongside a council of Valkyries, gods walk the red carpet with Hollywood starlets, and the U.S. military has a special battalion dedicated to eradicating Rocky Mountain trolls. 

Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of war, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.